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Ivory Coast's Ouattara replaces key ministers in reshuffle

Reuters

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara replaced ministers in charge of defence, budget and the interior on Wednesday in a reshuffle of key cabinet positions following months of unrest, a government official announced in a statement.

The world's top cocoa producer has endured waves of army mutinies and public sector strikes this year that have cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in pay-outs and squeezed a budget already under stress from a drop in export revenues.

The armed uprisings, which quickly swept across cities and towns across the country, also tarnished Ivory Coast's image as a post-war success story and exposed the civilian authorities' tenuous hold on the fractious military.

Hamed Bakayoko, who had been serving as Interior Minister, took over the defence post, according to the statement read to reporters before the start to a cabinet meeting.

"We must reform the army, because an army must be disciplined," Bakayoko told reporters after the meeting. "It's an enormous challenge that we are going to meet together with the soldiers."

The previous defence minister Alain-Richard Donwahi, who was the public face of the government's repeated capitulations to the mutineers, will now head the Water and Forestry Ministry.

Sidiki Diakite, the prefect of Ivory Coast's main city Abidjan, replaced Bakayoko at the head of the Interior Ministry.

Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly will meanwhile take on the budget portfolio, assisted by Moussa Sanogo in the role of a secretary of state.

Former Budget Minister Abdourahmane Cisse, an ex-Goldman Sachs banker seen as a rising political star in French-speaking West Africa's largest economy, was named as a special advisor to Ouattara.

"The changes at the Budget Ministry probably came as a surprise to bondholders," said Samir Gadio, head of Africa Strategy at Standard Chartered Bank. "That said, there has been no particular market reaction today, suggesting that investors do not expect a change in policy."

Ivory Coast has been a darling of frontier market investors since the end of civil war in 2011. A Eurobond it launched last month raised $1.25 billion in 16-year debt and 625 million euros ($720 million) in 8-year paper.

($1 = 0.8682 euros)

(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly and Ange Aboa; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Emma Farge and Toby Chopra)